Richard Shell, Professor of Legal Studies, Business Ethics and Management at the Wharton School of Business, identified five approaches to negotiating in his book, "Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiating Strategies for Reasonable People" -- accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, competing and compromising. The style you choose will depend on several factors including the outcome you'd like to achieve and the party with whom you'll be engaging in negotiations.
According to the Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation, accommodating is a negotiation style that promotes empathy over assertiveness. Accommodating negotiators will want to arrive at a resolution quickly and without conflict or the threat of a severed relationship. As such, the negotiations may end without the accommodating negotiator getting what he wants. In some instances, an accommodating negotiation style is appropriate.
Let's say the team you're on at work must choose a group reward for stellar quarterly results. Your co-workers want to visit an amusement park but, as the top performer, your hopes are set on dining at a five-star restaurant. Rather than stalling negotiations to get your way, you may choose to accommodate the majority rule.
While an avoiding negotiation style is not unique to women, an experiment conducted by Linda Babcock, the James Mellon Walton Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon's School of Public Policy and Management, showed that men were much more willing to negotiate than women. The women who did negotiate stated that they were extremely anxious negotiating for more money, even though they were told payment for their participation could be anywhere between $5 and $12.
Babcock suggests that women who avoid negotiations can earn much less than their male counterparts over their careers. Avoiding does work as a negotiation style in situations that are getting explosive. Calum Coburn, a consultant with The Negotiation Experts in Australia, suggests a 15- to 20-minute timeout in those types of situations.
Coburn notes that the collaborative negotiation style is about a "win-win" outcome and should not be confused with a compromising negotiation style. Collaborators find a way to ensure their needs are met as well as those of the other parties involved. No one leaves the table feeling as if they've been taken advantage of or abused because the atmosphere is one of mutual satisfaction and accomplishment.
The competitor negotiates to win. He is not concerned with the other party's feelings or outcomes and treats the negotiation process like a game that must be won. According to ASME International, in instances where rights are violated, when there is not enough time to iron out differences or others are at risk, the competitive negotiation style is appropriate. The downside with this style is that others can often predict what reactions or strategies to expect from a competitor and this may result in deadlock rather than concession.
In negotiation, whenever you compromise, both parties lose and gain something in the process. It is not an ideal negotiation style but when situations indicate that there can be no advancement without it, it is better to compromise than to avoid. When using this negotiation style, it is important to make sure your most important needs are met in the process so it does not amount to a total loss for you.